Since his sold-out TDF Collect show in December last year, Fred Fowler has kept us all eagerly waiting. He’s been working on several commissions, teaming up with the national carrier for ‘Qantas Curates‘, and freshly reno-ing his Footscray studio… But what’s really of the moment is Fred’s new ‘visually seductive tableaux’, his exhibition ‘Oblique Landscapes’, which features 12 paintings, varying from almost one-square-metre down to a cute little A4!
The body of work is a contemporary take on traditional ideas of the landscape, and one that explores the effects that colonisation, globalisation and urbanisation have had on Australia and its inhabitants. Distinctively, Fred’s paintings focus on that which commonly goes unnoticed, hidden under the surface, or even in plain sight. You’ll spot mobile phone towers, ghost nets, swords and shields, as well as feature doors and windows, which ‘function as openings or portals to different times and places’.
‘There’s just so much that can be contained within landscape painting,’ begins the Melbourne-based artist. ‘You can talk about politics, history, relationships, culture and of course the physical landscape itself. Australia is a vast land of incredible natural beauty, and as Ross Gibson writes regarding a particular stretch of country in Queensland, “It’s an immense, historical crime scene”.’
Ross’ writing, especially his book ‘Seven Versions of an Australian Badland’, really resonated with Fred while he was researching for this show, and provided ‘a great jumping-off point’. Another inspiration was the painting ‘Mobile Phone Tower’ by Polly Pawuya Butler-Jackson. ‘Since seeing it, I’ve been noticing just how many mobile phone towers there are and how important they are to our way of life these days,’ tells Fred. ‘They are a really interesting symbol, not only for connectivity, but also illustrating the changes technology is having on our cultural landscape.’
The artist is eager to gage people’s reactions at the ‘Oblique Landscapes’ opening next Thursday, and earnestly admits he’ll be observing their engagement to direct his future work. I’ve been introducing new colours, textures and symbols… so it’s been tricky getting the final balance right,’ tells Fred, ‘It probably doesn’t help that I’m slightly red/green colourblind and I use lots of greens!’ They all look pretty incredible to me (full disclosure, I did embellish my interview for my role at TDF with one of Fred’s wearable artworks, produced in collaboration with Gorman – thanks Fred!)
After defrosting from Melbourne’s bitter winter in Minjerribah, Fred Fowler will next be turning his hand to some ambitious, larger paintings (inspired by the never-ending list on his phone Notes) and an edition of lithographs, as well as upcoming prizes and competitions.
‘Oblique Landscapes’ by Fred Fowler
September 21st until October 14th
Opening night September 21st, 6-8pm
Shop 59 Capitol Arcade (basement level)
113 Swanston Street (enter via Howey Place), Melbourne